///GUEST POST: 4 Ways Youth Ministries Can Actually Connect & Partner with Parents

GUEST POST: 4 Ways Youth Ministries Can Actually Connect & Partner with Parents

Pop Quiz: Who has the biggest impact in the life of a teenager?

  1. Their friends?
  1. Their iPhone?
  1. Their parents?

The answer always seems to surprise people. The answer is… their parents.

Study after study reveals the same thing. The influence of Mom and Dad trumps it all. Consider Columbia University’s study about teen substance abuse as an example. For over two decades the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia has surveyed thousands upon thousands of teenagers and their parents in effort to identify factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of teen substance abuse. Their conclusion is simple: “We’ve learned that parents have the greatest influence on whether their teens will choose to use.”

So if parents have the biggest influence… then how come youth ministries often distance themselves from parents?

Ouch!

Let’s be honest. A bunch of us in youth ministry have begun our ministries with our eyes so focused on the kids… we forgot about the family. I’m simply suggesting that a healthy ministry needs to be thinking about reaching the whole family. Not to mention, it’s just smart ministry to work alongside parents since they do have the biggest impact in the kids’ life.

I’m going to take a giant leap. I’m going to assume you agree the church should reach the entire family, and that youth ministries often have access to families through their kids. So rather than devoting an entire article to convincing you of this point, I’m going to spend my time providing you with some practical tips to actually connecting and partnering with parents through your youth ministry.

Here are 4 ways youth ministries can be proactive about connecting & partnering with parents:

  1. Create Family Venues

How many of your events and activities include parents? Honestly… how many?

No, I’m not suggesting we obliterate youth ministry all together and turn it into family camp, I’m simply recommending we create some venues that parents and kids can experience together—maybe at least once a quarter.

This can be as simple as making youth group “family night” on occasion. Kids bring Mom, Dad, Auntie, or Grandma—whoever they live with—and get a chance to laugh and learn sitting next them. These venues are good opportunities to use creative  games parents and teens play together. My church created a venue like this during the ‘Sunday School’ hour for the six weeks before the Easter missions trip. Parents and kids sat with each other in chairs on the gym floor worshipping together, playing mixers together and hearing God’s word together.

I’ve seen groups do special events like father-daughter dates, mother-daughter brunch, or weekend father-son backpack trips. The sky’s the limit. The key is to think beyond the typical divide that happens at church, when kids go one direction and parents go another.

But the key to making these kinds of connections happen is…

  1. More Than Just an Email

If I asked 100 youth ministry leaders, “Do you make an effort to communicate with parents?” 99 of them would say, “Of course.” But what does that actually look like? A parents meeting in the fall (because your senior pastor makes you do this)? Parent updates sent out via email and social media?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking these efforts. I used them myself. I’m simply proposing we make a proactive effort to actually connect face-to-face. Not just an email or Tweet, but a sincere effort to truly connect with parents, interact with them about their kids, and maybe even become a go-to resource for effective parenting tools. Wouldn’t it be great if your communication with parents expanded beyond the typical, “Dodgeball tournament this Friday” email, and opened up channels of communication where you could listen to felt needs, and maybe even sent out relevant resources in response, like these ‘ready-made’ Parenting Tips.

I know, I know. We don’t have time to connect with every parent every week… or even every month. But I do think we should make an effort to meet with each set of parents face-to-face at least once a year, then keep the door open to connecting much more than that, providing them with resources that help them. This begins by simply calling parents and saying, “I’d love to meet you.”

I’m always amazed the fruit that face-to-face contact with parents yields. I’ve had opportunities to share the Gospel with parents, invite them to church, even get them involved in Bible studies or small groups… which leads me to my next suggestion…

  1. Parent Small Groups

Last month I visited a church still using the traditional ‘Sunday School’ hour between services. During this hour, parents of teens and tweens met in a classroom for a class they called “Surviving Parenting Adolescence.” About 20 or 30 parents attend this class each week (while their kids are in middle school or high school Sunday School) and engage in relevant discussions about parenting, like this 4-week curriculum, Parenting Teens with Smartphones.

I’m meeting a growing number of churches who are expanding the job-description of the youth pastor to include providing these types of venues. These can be led by volunteers or paid staff.

My church has a similar class called The Family Zone, for parents of 6th -12th grade (I ran the class as a volunteer for years). I just finished a series in this class about how to tell the explicit truth about sex in a world of explicit lies.

I just visited another church who is starting up a similar group on Wednesday nights. They are going to use my Should I Just Smash My Kid’s Phone? workbook as their curriculum, using the small group questions we provided for each chapter.

These are great opportunities to train and equip parents “in house.” But every once in a while, it’s good to bring in someone else…

  1. Parent workshops.

Parents really seem to enjoy occasionally hearing from the person who wrote the parenting book they just read. Some churches have the budget for this, and I’ve worked with countless churches that partnered with other churches to make this happen.

In fact, senior pastors are often very supportive of this idea. Most times when Doug, Jim or I teach these workshops, it’s a church-wide event. We preach Sunday morning followed by a workshop that afternoon or evening.

Listen to what parents are feeling and experiencing, and bring in someone who can help parents with these felt needs.

What steps can you take to become proactive about connecting and partnering with parents?

What are the felt needs your parents have?

What venue might be a good start?

Who is a parent you can call right now and initiate this kind of connection?

Jonathan McKee is a DYM author (check out his resources here) and a frequent youth ministry speaker and trainer.

By | 2016-10-13T13:52:44+00:00 September 6th, 2015|Uncategorized|1 Comment

About the Author:

Josh Griffin is one of the leading voices in youth ministry with over 20 years experience in the trenches, most recently as the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church. He's the co-founder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and been in 300+ episodes of the DYM Podcast with Doug Fields. He's created more than 50 youth ministry resources and authored several books including 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders. Josh and his wife Angela have 4 kids, which now includes 2 teenagers of their own! Contact Josh | Speaking Requests

One Comment

  1. Duncan Brandon February 9, 2017 at 12:27 am - Reply

    Thank you brother Josh for this blog, for your learned experience and training and for the willingness to share with the rest of us. I understand with LOVE that every Congregation/Church/Ministry has their own targeted community (outreach) youth groups) so on and so forth, that being said, not a single #1 ministry can be responsibility for reaching every group of lost souls.
    All that being said, I want to say that I do AGREE with you that it is the parent’s who are the biggest influencers in the lives of ( youth who’s parent’s are active & present) in the youth-child’s life) regularly and daily.
    In America there is an estimated Million plus youth ages 5 to 18 that are already in gangs, and those numbers grow, then subside, soon as a child gets plucked out or goes to juvenile detention center, he’s pulled in for life most times and older kids are recruiting on the streets at all times, around the clock.
    My reason for bringing this up in this blog is this, WHAT ABOUT THOSE KIDS? The kids who are falling through the cracks? I mean, sure, if you have a large church with several thousand members, hopefully the adults are getting their children involved in activities, ministry works and services. Still there are millions who are NOT being reached.
    Many might want to simply answer (as they have already) that well, it takes a special type of ministry to reach the kids in the streets, gangs and those who are involved in those lifestyles, and many are right. Often I am invited to speak at congregations as guest speaker, evangelist (gang prevention outreach motivational trainer and so on) here’s the ugly TRUTH that is revealed though.
    When I mention urban ministry outreach unlike it has been done before and reaching out to the un churched to compel them into the house of God, I am shut down and sent away with a nasty taste in my mouth that tells me, too many are fearful that (those At Risk Youth) will negatively effect the rest of our youth and our church?????
    The un churched need to first hear the GOOD NEWS and be compelled into the house of God to hear the WORD so they might grow into a relationship with JESUS CHRIST, Every CHILD MATTERS to Him, and so i am prayerful that Congregations will start looking to Him for His amazing miracles and blessings, not allowing fear to hinder the opportunity to minister to every lost soul in need of His love and FORGIVENESS.
    For those who might think that youth gangs, and over populated prisons are not impacting or effecting all of us, I want to share some BOLD TRUTH, FACTS and INSIGHT that should wake up AMERICA as a whole.
    Prison gangs are the most vicious and deadly gangs in the U.S. Prison gangs are recruiting and training growing in numbers, many are released daily, they owe their life to their gang, inside its life or death and for most its all about the gangs, violence and mayhem.
    Prison gangs members get released, they often are controlling or at least doing illegal business (drugs and weapons sales) with street gangs, much of the time though prison gangs control those on the streets and its not heard of that entire families get killed for the cause.
    Every community in the U.S. is AT RISK.

    Please understand this information is not something I read in a book, studied or researched online, I could and am writing often about this issue because I lived it, experienced it first hand and only by the GRACE, MERCY and LOVE of JESUS am I alive to be able to utilize this in an effort to reach those who are AT RISK.

    To them who also think that the white community is untouchable I want to verify and make known this, I’m white and because of the places I went and the people I got exposed to at an early age, serveral street gangs were trying to recruit me at 14.
    Leaving home shortly after that I had about a 5 year run from east to west, north to south and by age twenty I was arrested and faced almost 200 years in prisons in several states for crimes such as; Armed robbery with a gun, with a mask, burglary, drug possession, receiving stolen property, credit card fraud, several charges of each.
    Twenty years old and thrown into the big house where I become an instant target for the killers, gangs, and predators. I knew it was either adapt, become part of my environment or be a victim. Immediately I was targeted, violence come upon me and from that point on I become a vicious hate filled, violent psychotic who thrived on being the first to inflict brutality on others.
    Thirteen years into the 15 that I served, I knew I had two years left and faced a situation where I once again had to consider taking a life in order to possibly save my own, I cried out to JESUS and He came… If the HOLY SPIRIT leads you can view partial testimony CBN.COM BRANDON DUNCAN FINDING FREEDOM IN PRISON or (GOOGLE) Brandon Duncan fierce Youth Outreach. http://www.facebook.com/fierceyouthoutreach
    in His service

    Brandon Duncan

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